The ancient story of the maritozzo: the best Roman dessert
The traditional Roman cuisine is rich in tasty and fragrant dishes. However, in addition to numerous first and second courses - many of which occupy a relevant position among the most famous and beloved ones of Italy - there are also some desserts. Those who have visited the capital at least once and have had lunch in one of the several restaurant of the city certainly know the "maritozzo", one of the most famous and peculiar desserts of the Lazio region, loved by all Romans and by the thousands of tourists who crowd the streets of the capital every day. What is it? It looks like a loaf of bread cut in two parts, filled with a lot of tasty whipped cream. Behind its name a very ancient story lies, tracing this typical dessert to the Roman era. If you want to know more about it, continue to read the following lines.
A specialty from far away
Already in the ancient times, there were very special loaves of bread made with a mixture of eggs, flour, butter and a pinch of salt, sweetened with the addition of a few tablespoons of honey. They probably were the ancestors of the "maritozzo", the fragrant dessert highly appreciated by the inhabitants of the ancient capital of the empire. But it was especially during the Middle Ages the "maritozzo" became famous. In that period, it was made especially during the period of the Lent; the loaves of bread were slightly smaller than the desserts we can find in bars and pastry shops nowadays and they were often enriched with pine nuts, raisins and orange peel, according to the taste of those who made them. They were one of the very few possible transgressions during fasting.
Between the second half of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, cooks and housewives began to prepare these delicious soft little loaves, since they were appreciated by everyone: men, boys and children enjoyed them so much! Initially, they were characterized by slightly larger dimensions than now; after having made them, the wives used to put them in the saddlebags of men who went to work the land in the morning. This sweet bread was the main meal of farmers, because it was rich in calories and able to guarantee a good energy supply throughout the day.
The etymology of the term "maritozzo"
But where does the name used to refer to these Roman dessert come from? The word "maritozzo" would be a malapropism of the term "husband" and it was attributed to the dessert we are talking about after a very peculiar habit: on every first Friday of March - at the time the current Valentine’s Day - the future husband had to donate one "maritozzo" to his promise spouse, hiding a little homage inside of it, such as an engagement ring, or pair earrings or another type of jewel. The recipe of this dessert is connected to a famous tradition in Rome and in its outskirts: handed down for centuries, especially made by the girls looking for a husband.
These young women used to prepare the "maritozzo" carrying them, still warm and fragrant, in the public square of the country, where the most beautiful boys of the area - there to find a wife themselves - used to taste them. Often, the "maritozzo" had the shape of a heart, or the girls used liquid sugar to write thoughts on them aimed to the tasters. It was a tradition particularly rooted in the Roman countryside, carried on for many years.
How is the "maritozzo" and where to find it?
If you want to taste a good "maritozzo" for breakfast or snack, you just have to go down the street and enter one of the many cafes or pastry shops in Rome. Currently, it is cut in two parts and stuffed with plenty of whipped cream, although many prefer the variant with custard. The dough is made of water, flour, sugar, yeast, butter, milk and eggs, but some people replace butter with olive oil. It is a simple and very old recipe, made of traditional ingredients, everyone has at home.
Its simplicity, together with its full and round flavour delights the palate of everybody tastes it. Some of the numerous variations are: the traditional one with whipped cream, the one typical of Lent, with pine nuts and raisins, the one covered with melted chocolate, and the one stuffed with salty foods, including tomatoes, burrata, cod, salami and pesto. In short, the imagination is not missing and the inspiration of the Roman chefs can be measured also by a traditional recipe like the "maritozzo". A few years ago, the vegan and gluten-free variants have become popular for those who do not want to renounce to this great dessert.
The Maritozzo Day: a day dedicated to the most famous dessert in Rome
Every year, throughout the city, during the Maritozzo Day, you can enjoy a large number of versions of this traditional dessert. All the chefs who take part to the event let their imagination explode, making very original recipes, less traditional but very tasty. This special occasion is getting a popular event among Roman people, but also among tourists, able to attract thousands of enthusiasts and gourmets, to take a tour of the Roman historical patisseries and taste some of the most peculiar and imaginative creations. In short, if you are in the capital on December, do not miss the opportunity to take part to a real marathon of the "maritozzo".
Generally, the appointment takes place during the first week of December, it starts already from the early morning over the entire Roman territory. Last year, the event took place on December 2nd: the social networks were literally stormed by thousands of videos, photos and anecdotes related to the event. If you stay at the Hotel Cosmopolita, don't miss the appointment and do not forget to taste the strangest and most appetizing variations of the typical cake of the Eternal City!
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